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Scott Retreats: No Drug-Testing of State Workers, At least For Now

| June 16, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott has at least temporarily backed away from requiring drug tests for state workers, putting the plan on hold amid a constitutional challenge.

Scott, who issued an executive order in March requiring the tests, quietly sent a memo to agency heads last week suspending implementation. The plan will only continue moving forward at the Department of Corrections — which already tests most of its employees.

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In the memo, Scott said he is “confident that the drug testing called for in the order is consistent with the constitution, with the government’s rights as an employer and with sensible practice to ensure a safe, effective, productive and fiscally accountable workforce.”

But Scott also said that while the federal court challenge is pending, it “does not make sense for all agencies to move forward with the logistical issues involved in instituting the new policy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, however, said Scott was backtracking from the drug-testing plan. The ACLU filed the lawsuit May 31 and contends that the plan violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

“This is nothing less than a massive and embarrassing retreat on the part of Gov. Scott,” ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement posted on the group’s website. “Despite his continuing rhetoric, he must now realize that Floridians won’t simply roll over but will stand up and defend our constitutional rights.”

Added Randall Marshall, the group’s legal director: “We are pleased that this new order has delayed subjecting thousands of state employees to demeaning, invasive and illegal tests of their bodily fluids. But it does not change our constitutional challenge.”

After a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Scott insisted that the decision was simply a minor — and temporary — delay.

“We’re going forward with it,” Scott said. “We’re going forward, it’s just a process.”

Scott said taxpayers expect state workers to be drug free, and he was committed to finding a way to implement the plan.

“The private sector does this all the time,” Scott said during a regular availability with the media. “Our citizens of this state expect our workers to be productive.”

Scott’s March executive order called for drug testing before workers are hired and random testing for already-hired workers. It raised the possibility of employees being tested at least quarterly.

The executive order gave agencies 60 days to amend drug-testing policies and notify employees. Agencies were supposed to begin tests for prospective employees immediately after the policy amendments and start random tests 60 days after notifying current employees.

Scott’s memo last week, however, indicates that state officials had been working on the “feasibility and logistical steps” of multi-agency contracting for testing services. With that process ongoing, agencies did not have to meet the executive order’s deadlines for starting the tests.

Two of Scott’s spokesmen downplayed the suspension of the testing plan Thursday, with press secretary Lane Wright saying the governor is “not backing off.”

Deputy Communications Director Brian Hughes said the governor’s office had built in time for implementing the program to account for possible logistical problems.

Hughes said the Department of Corrections was told to continue with the program because it already tests many employees and was ready to move forward.

Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the prisons agency, said correctional officers and probation officers are already subject to drug testing. She said the executive order also will lead to testing of administrative staff.

–Jim Saunders and David Royce, News Service of Florida

8 Responses for “Scott Retreats: No Drug-Testing of State Workers, At least For Now”

  1. rickg says:

    I’m looking forward to the day that we protect our 4th Amendment rights with as much fervor as we protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    If we do not oppose these fascist nothing will get better. Thank you ACLU. Mandated test is a big waste of taxpayers funds and . Scott is supposed to be all about saving taxes as per Tea Parties commands.
    Now all is to undermine and disrespect our public workers their unions and the poor. Read next what a good worker gets nowadays without a union to protect their labor rights:
    Is this the America we want to live in? We need to have compassion for our own first.

  3. jon says:

    Being able to work in a safe place should be everyone’s right. I do not want someone working next me that could be under the influence of drugs. How would you like for a Doctor to come to work stoned, or a police officer? Or even worse how about the paramedic that comes to save your life right after an accident or even a teacher that is with your child for 7 hours a day do you really want him or her sneaking off to hit their pipe. I think it is my right to know that the people we trust are sober at work.

  4. Craig says:

    The irony is, if he has his way, there will be no employees left to drug test.

  5. Bob Z. says:

    Jon: State workers that are involved in public safety, such as the police, firefighters, etc., and those who deal with children are already subjected to drug testing so rest assured; teachers are mainly employed by the counties so they are not included in the Gov’s directive. For the most part, what the Gov. wants to do is test all the rest, such as the ones that sit at a desk and push paper. And as is well-know, the Florida courts have already ruled in 2004 that doing so is a violation of the 4th ammendment. Finally, there is a difference in the law as it pertains to public and private employers…I don’t make the law, I am just reporting it. In my opinion, people should do a little research before spouting off.

  6. mara says:

    The private sector shouldn’t be doing it either, Governor–that is no excuse.

    I hope the ACLU finds a way to stop this. Far as I’m concerned, unless you have a job where immediate public safety is an issue (a driver, a train conductor, an airline pilot, a doctor, a police officer, etc.), there should be no pre-emptive urinalysis permissible, period. For anyone.

    Once they beat this down on the “state employee” level, I want to see the ACLU find a way to get this invasion of privacy stopped except in the cases of accidents, deaths, or reasonable suspicion that someone is intoxicated–for our society as a whole. Period.

    It’s ridiculous. This kind of drug-testing–this “you will pee in this cup because you are guilty until you prove your innocence and you will not work for a living until you do as we say” justification–was wrong in the beginning, and it’s still wrong now.

  7. just a citizen says:

    This guy is the worst of the worst… I just hope tha whatever damage he does can be undone by his successor. This guy has done some of the worst damge to florida’s economy…and it continues…write your reps in the house and senate…if they back him they should go too…..

  8. rickg says:

    Jon, how many people have you worked with that may have been fighting a hangover??? Let’s get real here and face reality. I can understand drug testing when there is a reason to do so like mulitple absences, safety factors etc… but just to do so without cause is a violation of our 4th Amendment rights.

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